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Middle schools hit them with their best shots

March 12, 2006|By DAN KAUFFMAN

A capacity crowd inside Broadfording Christian Academy's gym witnessed perfection Saturday.

Not once, but twice.

Smithsburg Middle School's Ryne Willard made all 10 of his free throws to win the Washington County Middle School boys basketball league seventh grade free throw title.

"I wanted to set the bar high," Willard said. "It feels good."

"He's out in the driveway until the wee hours of the evening," said Barry Willard, Ryne's father.

Minutes later, St. Mary's Jay Donoghue matched Willard's performance to win the eighth grade title.

"I work on free throws a lot outside the gym in the parking lot," Donoghue said. "As I got toward the seventh one, I took deep breaths and calmed myself down."

It was a festive day for the middle school league, started in 1999. Events at Broadfording included championship games at the sixth, seventh and eighth grade levels, seventh and eight grade all-star games and free throw and 3-point shooting contests for all grades.

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"Each year, we try to add something new to the league, since it's growing," said league president Kevin Smoot, who took charge in 2000. "It's exciting for me. I think the parents and the coaches have seen how important this league is for the children. Every Saturday, we have a packed gym and great basketball."

Northern (sixth grade), Smithsburg (seventh) and Clear Spring (eighth) won league titles Saturday. However, as it is with most youth programs, wins and losses are not at the heart of the league.

"We wanted to have something to promote each community and each school," Smoot said. "We try to promote an essence of character, sportsmanship and integrity. We follow the high school mandate for academics (a minimum 2.0 grade point average is needed to participate), and we try to emphasize that."

The middle school programs also serve as feeder programs for the county's high schools.

"This is the best thing going in Washington County," Barry Willard said. "The high school coaches get to watch the kids coming through the programs."

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